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Driven by the Government of India’s initiative to encourage Make in India, the composites industry of India is looking forward to exciting years of significant growth.

The Indian composites industry has grown steadily over recent decades. Between 2011 and 2015, a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of about 6%was achieved, despite increased prices of raw materials prices and a credit crunch across the supply chain. During 2017, growth is anticipated to accelerate, with both raw materials suppliers and composites manufacturers planning capacity expansions. As a result, the CAGR for the period 2015-2020 is predicted to rise to 10-12%. This will grow India’s composites industry from its current size of around 3.3 lakh metric tons to a projection of around 5 lakh metric tons by 2020.

“A key driving force behind this predicted growth is the Government of India’s initiative to encourage Make in India. This is leading to many opportunities for international companies to form joint ventures with Indian companies and tap into the potential of the composites sector in India,” says Dr. A. Selvam, Executive Secretary of the FRP Institute, a professional society based in Chennai that aims to promote the Indian composites industry.

“For instance, at the recent Aero India show, several global companies had constructive discussions with local Indian companies to manufacture carbon fiber composites components and systems for the aerospace and defense sector.”

The Indian industries using composites, with their market shares, are transportation (20%), building & construction (14%), E&E (14%), wind energy (12%) and infrastructure (11%). Over the last five years, the Indian composites industry has seen an increased use of mechanized manufacturing processes. However, hand lay-up processes are still the first choice among composite fabricators due to their low operating cost and easy handling.

 

Glass fiber dominates

In terms of composite fibers, glass fiber dominates the Indian composites industry as the preferred reinforcement material with a market share of around 99% (118,000 MT); around three-quarters of which is supplied from Indian companies. Aramid fiber (1100 MT) is mainly imported and used for the production of bulletproof jackets. Carbon fiber has a small but increasing usage: up from 30 MT in 2011 to 60 MT in 2015.

Most of it originates from Japanese producers. It mostly finds applications in aerospace, vehicles, sporting goods and defense as a substitute for metals and ceramics. Regarding resins, unsaturated polyester resins takes the majority share of 85% (132,000 MT), followed by epoxy at 9% (14,000 MT). India has around 65 UPR manufacturers.

 

Major growth in wind energy sector

During 2015 the Indian wind energy industry added 3.46 GW of wind energy capacity; way ahead of its target of 2.4 GW. The sector looks set for further growth; the Government of India recently increased the target for installed wind capacity from the current level of 24 GW to 60 GW by 2022. At the same time, state governments are providing a number of incentives such as finalization of feed-in tariff and regulatory support. The Renewable Generation Obligation (RGO) has been included in the Electricity Act, while a national wind energy policy has been formulated. All these initiatives look set to promote the wind energy sector and consequently drive growth of the Indian composites industry.

 

Great potential for transport applications

“The increasing use of composites in the automotive industry, and the significant growth potential for motorized transport in the country, are likely to lead to increased composites penetration in this sector,” adds Dr. Selvam.

“A key initiative to drive composites usage in this sector is the government’s National Electric Mobility Mission 2020.”

Various international OEMs are actively investing in India. Jaguar Land Rover is planning to manufacture its Land Rover SUV for the domestic and export markets at its plant in Pune. Swedish electric vehicle maker Clean Motion plans to invest US$ 10 million in India over the next three years. Japanese utility vehicle manufacturer Isuzu Motors has inaugurated its greenfield manufacturing unit in Andhra Pradesh. Nissan is planning to bring its electric and hybrid technologies to India. Ford plans to manufacture two families of engines – one diesel, one petrol – in India by 2017. And three of the world’s largest air bag suppliers are setting up plants and increasing production capacity in India.

Also not to be forgotten in the transport sector are the railway industry – which in India consumes approximately 10,000 MT of composites for various applications – and the aerospace industry, which as mentioned earlier is benefitting from joint ventures with global companies.

 

Challenges to be addressed

The future of the composites industry in India looks bright, although challenges need to be addressed to capitalize on the opportunities. The value chain is fragmented and is in need of optimization. There is an absence of solid and concrete regulatory frameworks and bodies. Processes for the recycling of composites waste need to be improved, and questions surround the commitment to quality among small FRP/GRP manufacturers. In addition, R&D activities need to be increased to drive new composites products and applications.

“Despite these obstacles – all of which are being addressed and could be surmounted – these are exciting times to be involved in the composites industry of India,” remarks Dr. Selvam.

 

Written by Denzil Walton

Denzil Walton is a technical copywriter, editor and conference reporter. He has over 30 years’ experience writing on a variety of industrial and high-tech topics.

 

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